Do Travel Blogs Make Money? (Not Really)

I came across a tweet from Richard Barrow (one of the most well known travel bloggers in Thailand) about a month ago that said:

At first I thought that was a little odd as he gets thousands of visitors per day, he must be making a pretty penny or seven. But from looking at his sites, Richard’s blogging intentions are for fun and not a way to make money in Thailand.

He even told me that he wants to get rid of all his ad banners and become advert free, even his Twitter profile states he does not accept paid blogs or tweets.

Unlike me, Richard does not swindle his visitors for their hard earned cash. Richard blogs because he enjoys doing it, not to make money.

But his tweet got me thinking, is starting a blog a good way to make money online in 2015?

How many travel blogs make more than $1,500 per month? I think answer is somewhere near 1%.

How do travel blogs make money? Usually by any of the following:

1. Banner advertisements

If you plan to start a travel blog and hope to monetize it with banner ads….

bad time meme

The average banner ad click-through rate is extremely poor (less than 0.5%) and most travel blogs would be lucky to get more than $50 per month for a placement. With more Internet users having ad blockers, they are becoming a less effective way to generate income.

Bob in Oz runs a great site for people moving to Australia, and only changes $80AUD for banner ads which is great value. I think Bob is one of the exceptions to this rule and could easily charge more than $100AUD+ for his ad slots if he wanted.

2. Agoda and hotel bookings

Getting paid to affiliate hotel bookings used to be good times. I used to make about $50-$150 per month, which was great as all I had to do was review a hotel and collect my monthly paychecks.

But a year or so ago Agoda changed the way they pay and track sales, and now I’d be lucky to get more than $20 a month. In fact, I took all my Agoda links off as a result.

3. Selling your own digital products

Selling your own products is the best way to make money from a travel website as you’re in complete control of everything.

At this moment in time I only sell one eBook on how to become an online freelancer, but there’s a lot of bloggers who offer consultation services like A Couple Travelers, create travel guides and plans like Tie Land To Thailand, and offer their own online courses like Muay Thai Guy.

There’s a lot of things you can sell and offer once you build an audience and your readers trust you.

Take me for example, my eBook alone has generated me more than a few thousand USD in 4 months and I’ve done almost zero promotion. Asides from the banner on the right hand side of my website and a few blog posts about online freelancing, I have done pretty much nothing to promote it:

ebook sales

Truth be told, I could probably sell a lot more copies if I really pushed it.

There’s no reason why I couldn’t make more products related to Thailand and sell them, like how to learn basic phrases and stuff. It’s actually why I’m talking more about ways to make money in Thailand as I may do soon.

But yeah, creating your own products and knowing how to promote them is the best way to go to make money travel blogging.

Higher end stuff like courses, consultations and VIP memberships to site will rake you more cash than eBooks but also require more effort.

4. Free stuff

As a travel blogger you get a lot of free stuff. I’ll often get 50% off hotel prices, free tickets to events and get asked to do reviews. I don’t get nearly as many get as most starlight down the line travel blogs because I write articles about some ‘taboo’ subjects.

Hardly a reason to quit your job and start travel blogging though. Only the real big blogs (the 1%) will get free first class flights and hotel stays at 5* venues. Everyone else will have to suck it (me included).

5. Affiliating in general

Affiliating is basically promoting someone else’s product and you get a fee. For example, reviewing a hotel and placing links for visitors to click and book is affiliating. This is easy because you don’t have to create a product or ship anything. You simply drive traffic to someone else’s website and hope they buy something.

After creating your own products, this is where most people make their money travel blogging. You can affiliate almost anything. Every single item on the Amazon store you can affiliate and get between 4-8% per sale, some sites offer as much as 100%.

I have a few other sites where I outsourced everything and got people to write the content and now I earn a few thousand bath a month from each of them.

I wouldn’t suggest you use Amazon as there’s much better affiliates out there.

For example, my friend Nomad Philippines is a poker player and you can see all the poker affiliates links they have. A sale there can net you as much as $600.

6. Selling your services

Most travel bloggers don’t make money from their travel blog, they make it from selling their services. Many are actually freelances like myself. Paper Planes is one great example of a decent blogger who is also a freelancer writer and Brendon another.

Okay, this is the bit where I plug my awesome eBook, just click the obnoxious banner below to check it out:

working in Thailand7. Google AdSense

Google AdSense is very much like using banner ads except Google finds the advertisers for you. You simply place a few ads on your site, and if your traffic clicks, you make money.

I don’t use Google AdSense on this website as it would breach their T&C, but on another one of my websites I make a little bit of passive income:

AdSense Numbers

Once again, nothing to write home about.

Google AdSense is a numbers game, the more people you bring to your website, the more clicks these ads get, the more you make. You can make as much as $10 per 1,000 visitors using this method, but often you’ll be in the $1-$4 range.

Can you make $2,000+ from travel blogging?

You can can for sure, but it’s not easy.

If you manage to find a travel blogger who tells you they cover all their living and travel costs by travel blogging, they are part of the 1% I was talking about earlier.

99% of travel bloggers will make less than $300 per month, but there’s that 1% who make enough money that they don’t have to work.

You can become one of them too, but with so many travel blogs popping up, it’s getting harder everyday.

Should you start a blog?

Everybody is jumping onto the digital nomad bandwagon making it harder for websites to rank on Google, and the cost of using paid ads is always increasing.

In 2001, it was very easy to setup a travel blog and rake $2,000 or more within a 6 months. Today it can take 10x as much effort and you may earn 10x as less. But the same can be said if you started a fashion blog, an e-commence store or a your very own dating site.

The truth is everything is hard, but if you put in the effort you can do anything , even if you know nothing but are willing to learn.

With more people traveling and flights getting cheaper, starting a travel blog isn’t the worst idea. But if your goal is to make $5,000 or more per month online, I’d probably avoid travel blogging to make mooney and focus on something bigger like setting up an actual online business.

15 thoughts on “Do Travel Blogs Make Money? (Not Really)

  1. nRon
    15 November, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Good honest assessment mate!

  2. Pedro
    17 November, 2015 at 1:38 am

    Blogging is the most retarded way to make money because you give away 99% of our content for free

    1. 17 November, 2015 at 6:34 am

      Hey Pedro, without giving things away for free why would anybody buy from you?

      You need to give people value to build trust before you sell something.

      1. Pedro
        17 November, 2015 at 7:25 am

        Yes but you don’t need to give away 99% of your content for free in order to sell an eBook for 10 bucks that’s just an ass backwards approach and its the reason why most bloggers are dead broke.

        You could just pay traffic send it into a good sales page and make the same sale without giving away anything. Then collect their email and hit them with more pitches in the back end.

        There’s products making millions on clickbank and you don’t see those guys running blogs. Instead they focus on direct marketing and copywriting principles which most bloggers complete ly ignore

        1. 17 November, 2015 at 8:24 am

          Hey Predo,

          That’s right, but there’s also 1000s of people who use the same exact method but lose money because they cannot create successful paid ads/landing pages etc. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, both methods work and have their own advantages. For example, blogging offers greater ROI but PPC ads provides faster results. We shouldn’t use one over the other, I think both are great and should be combined if appropriate for the site/product.

  3. 17 November, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    No, travel blogs don’t make money if write about unknown floating markets and temples in the suburbs 555.

    New strategy, shareable content of interest and I’ll follow your tips…

  4. 19 November, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    Honest assessment! Every time I read about someone quitting their job to travel (which is great), and to support their travels through blogging (which, as you point out, is probably not going to happen) I cringe. One of the issues that I see with travel blogging is that travel bloggers are a bit like sheeple. We need some uniqueness, imo.

    1. 20 November, 2015 at 12:01 am

      Hey Nacie,

      Yes you’re right. If you ever look for things to do or restaurants to eat everybody follows the masses and gives the same review/opinion, most are scared to say what they really think.

      Thanks for the comment.

      1. Dawid
        21 November, 2015 at 10:11 am

        “everybody follows the masses and gives the same review/opinion, most are scared to say what they really think.”

        This is what I hate about Western society in general, but it is really great to get some original content on here from someone who tells it like it is.

        Mate it is good to get articles like this, they have a genuine, untainted feel to them and it feels like it is written by an actual person and not some big fat phoney who is just talking shit and telling people what they want to hear.

        Keep up the good work on this site – been following for a while now since the days!


  5. Mike
    7 February, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Does Richard Barrow make money? I read once he doesnt come to any Festivals and then reports over it for money….and that he is not after money on general.

    So does he do all that stuff for free, or how he earns money through it (i guess he could make some good money if he wanted to?)

    1. 8 February, 2017 at 3:16 am

      He mentioned on Twitter that his site makes enough money to cover running costs so not that much.

  6. Mike
    8 February, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Shouldnt he make much much more, considering all the traffic he should/could get?

    I mean if he doesnt make money, other Thailand Travel Bloggers surely don’t do too, or maybe some might have a better strategy!?

    1. 8 February, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      Not sure how much traffic he gets but he doesn’t want to monetize it, could perhaps make more than it does but don’t think that is his objective. Very few make money, and even fewer make good money.

  7. Mike
    8 February, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    do you think those make money ?

    would be interested how you rate those sites!

    1. 9 February, 2017 at 8:13 am

      I don’t know I can read it. You would be better of asking them or doing some research on them.

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